Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's Wrong with the City and NDOT (Environmental Injustice in West Las Vegas)

Please include these comments as part of the F Street Project. Although I have major concerns about the effects of Project NEON and the I-515 Project, I will limit my comments to F Street.

I was extremely disappointed that I was not allowed to speak more than 2 minutes at today's town hall meeting for F Street. The town hall was scheduled for 9am to 12pm, and finished at 11 am. I consider this process undemocratic and consistent with the strategies identified in the book "The Failure of Planning" by Richard Hogan. It's unfortunate that NDOT and the City of Las Vegas continue to use the same failed strategies that got us here.

NDOT and the City of Las Vegas need to address and remedy the past environmental injustices, to include the 1956 plan, the closing of streets in 1968, and the closing of F Street in 2008. I believe this acknowledgment of "EJ" should be part of the TIGER Grant and will strengthen your proposal.

Besides the obvious mention of the value of F Street access to billions in development at Symphony Park, you should also mention that NDOT saved $10-20 million from closing F Street in the first place.

Going back just to 1956, documents indicate that the City and State planned on putting I-15 through West Las Vegas to serve White businesses. The plan appears to have cost more than the two alternate routes which ran east of Downtown. It also displaced 200 African American families.

The City of Las Vegas and the State of Nevada closed streets in 1968, despite public protests. They planned to reopen the street only came after massive protests.

No later than 2006, NDOT was complicit in a plan to close F Street and the only direct access to billions in development at Symphony Park. The City has failed to provide information on who came up with the idea, although Molasky Development may have been involved as early as 2003. Molasky Development is also planning an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Building near the gateway to the Westside.

I also think you need to take a more active role in including young people, Latinos, and others who have been previously excluded in the F Street planning process. I mentioned some ideas to Chris Young today. For example, I believe children at West Prep and the Agassi Boys and Girls Club could be involved in learning about F Street and be taught about progressive planning. But perhaps that's a job we can't trust NDOT or the City to do without adequate community supervision.

Dahn Shaulis, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

West Las Vegas: Patterns of Environental Injustice and Resistance

Last week Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic sent me several official documents that tell us more about the history of transportation racism, regional inequity, and environmental injustice here. One of the documents, from 1956, showed that the City had three different plans for Interstate 15, and chose the western route. This route, which cut through historically black West Las Vegas, actually cost the most, but was approved in order to provide more convenience to business and the Las Vegas Strip.

Another document from 1970 indicated that civil unrest from October 5-11, 1969 was an important factor in the plan to reopen F Street. On October 8, 1969, the Las Vegas Review Journal posted articles about the events, including comments from young men (including a Vietnam vet) who had been frustrated by the lack of justice in West Las Vegas. I have been unable to locate any of the men involved in these events.

In 2008, people in West Las Vegas took a different strategy when F Street closed, choosing peaceful protests and legal and political pressure. Although the City and State promise to reopen the street, the thoroughfare between West Las Vegas and Symphony Park may not open until 2014 or later.

Click on the picture to get a larger version of the Review-Journal (October 8, 1969) photo.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Concerns about Environmental Justice and Project NEON

Project NEON will displace several hundred working-class people and people of color. The connector between Industrial Boulevard and MLK Boulevard will also be "dangerous by design" particularly for children at the Agassi Boys & Girls Club, which is only feet away from MLK.

Mr. Cooke and Mr. Abdalla,

I am concerned that NDOT's responses to my questions about Project NEON did not adequately address Environmental Justice concerns for West Las Vegas. One of these was as a result of my error.

I am requesting an email copy of your responses so that I can share it with other citizens before the next public comment period ends. It would be unfortunate for everyone if these issues are not resolved, and we have another F Street situation.

(1) One of my major concerns in that the Industrial-MLK Connector will be used as a north-south arterial, like Desert Inn Road is as an East-West arterial. This connection could lead to more traffic, higher traffic speeds, more pollution, and more pedestrian deaths of children, elders, and disabled people in West Las Vegas.

Although Project NEON does not physically touch much of West Las Vegas, by tying the Industrial-MLK connector into a widened MLK Boulevard, there may be a large Environmental Justice impact along MLK Boulevard, north of the actual project.

Are you saying that a 6-lane MLK Blvd connected to Industrial Blvd. will continue to have a 30 mph speed? Have you discussed these issues of traffic control with Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and the RTC? How is it possible that you haven't coordinated with the RTC about public transit as it pertains to this project?

Shouldn't public transit be a part of early planning rather than as an afterthought? Many people in the area (at least 25%) are transit dependent and dedicated transit routes could relieve congestion and pollution.

(2) I'm not sure I understand your point about disregarding the survey of potentially displaced people. Does that mean you will not resurvey this population? How does that comply with EJ concerns?

(3) In response #7, I asked about the impact on the Agassi School. I meant to say the Boys and Girls Club (800 N. MLK Blvd), near Washington. Again, my concern is that when Industrial Road is connected to MLK, it will increase traffic, traffic speeds, and air pollution, creating a host of EJ issues.

Dahn Shaulis

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Letter to Educational Leaders to Pass SB398

My name is Dahn Shaulis. I am an alumnus of UNLV (Ph.D. in sociology, 1998), and have taken several classes/taught in the UNLV School of Education. I know that you and others are seeking solutions to the cuts to save the Educational Leadership program at UNLV. Is it too late for the program to survive?

I know that sometimes faculty and administrators can be reluctant to act publicly, but it will take political action and leadership from the department, the media, and your allies (e.g. the Clark County School District, School Board Members, parents, students) to save your program and save the State of Nevada from further decline.

It will also take solutions.

According to the SAGE Commission, SB398 would save $51 million the first year and $281 million over 5 years by diverting non-violent drug offenders from prison into treatment. SB398 was proposed in the 2009 Legislature but did not pass because of its start up costs ($6 million). Existing and underutilized physical structures for these programs already exist (Casa Grande, Jean, Nevada State Prison).

The money saved could be earmarked for long-term prevention, such as Pre-K education for working-class children. It could also be spent on educational leadership, IF educational leadership can be part of the solution for justice in this Valley.

I asked State politicians that the Bill be considered in the last emergency session but all I heard from politicians was that they couldn't consider any new spending. I attempted to contact School Board members but received little input.

The plan has support from both parties: it was sponsored by Senator Steven Horsford (Ms. Horsford's husband) and the Director of Corrections, Mr. Skolnik, has previously supported it in public.

If used for proper education programs, there could be even more savings (along with more justice and public safety) in the long run.

Dahn Shaulis, Ph.D.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Housing Being Built Meters Away from Interstate Highway I-95

On April 2, 2008, the Las Vegas City Council voted on Agenda Items #82, #83, and #84 to unanimously approve the construction of Inspirado Apartments, two developments totaling approximately 500 residences. This decision came despite community opposition to the project and staff recommendations that the agenda items be denied.

This week, Ms. Sheila Lambert, representing Ward 6 Councilperson Steve Ross, took offense to my questions about the public health hazards of allowing hundreds of people to live so close to Interstate Highway I-95. According to Ms. Lambert, people have the right to choose where they live. Some of the new housing seems to be within distances that would be considered hazardous for human health.1

Nevada Department of Transportation's Civil Rights representative Norma Norman stated that the possible public health and environmental justice issues were local issues only, and that NDOT would continue with its plans to widen I-95. Ms. Norman said, however, that she would ask NDOT's environmental engineers for their input. Other NDOT officials have not yet replied to my questions.

Click on the title to see the City Council Minutes and supporting documents. Click on the image to get a closer look at this project.